TUSD Whistleblowers: Palo Verde High School lockdown is evidence of system unraveling

Three Sonorans note: The truth always comes out in the end. An example of this is neophyte HT Sanchez traveling to the White House to discuss how great TUSD’s student discipline is, which of course has nothing to do with the connection TUSD board president Adelita Grijalva, daughter of Congressman Raul Grijalva, was able to arrange. This facade is exposed considering the following two recent events:

The latest TUSD Whistleblower letter addresses this rise in violence in our schools and who is responsible; perhaps HT Sanchez was not the best person to address student discipline at the White House…


The Tucson Community- 14th Open Letter
From: Whistleblowers- Comprised of Extremely Concerned TUSD Administrators, Teachers, and Parents
Subject: The TUSD System is UNRAVELING as Illustrated by Palo Verde High School’s Recent Discipline Problems

The problems in dealing with discipline at Palo Verde High School (PV) have escalated due to the lack of attention and responsiveness by Superintendent Dr. Sanchez and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Abel Morado. 1010 has become an obstacle for the schools rather than any type of support base. PV is not the only school that is being strangled in effectively dealing with discipline. Students are getting a loud and repeated message that they are able to violate one rule (discipline code) after another and get away with just about anything without the administration taking swift and appropriate action. Site administrators have their hands tied. Central administration does not respond promptly to serious discipline matters and 1010 downplays dangerous situations. The problem continues to intensify and has reached a viable threat to both students and employees. The story at Palo Verde speaks for all comprehensive high schools.

About three and half weeks ago several PV students were ditching and wound up at an apartment complex off of 22nd Street and Kolb (behind the car dealership). Students were congregated in front of a young couple’s apartment while smoking marijuana and being generally disruptive during the school day. The couple asked the students to move away from their apartment. When the couple left their apartment, they were followed by the students to the McDonalds’ Fast Food Restaurant on the southwest corner of 22nd Street and Kolb. Once inside the restaurant, the couple was “jumped” (assaulted) by the students. Police were called. The PV administration immediately contacted 1010 and were instructed by Dr. Abel Morado not to do anything until further instruction. Four days later, the students were suspended for three days- each with an abeyance contract. (Yes, we did say four days later!)

While waiting for the 4 day prolonged response, one of the students involved in the McDonalds’ incident assaulted a PV assistant principal (AP). Charges were not pressed since doing so is considered a TUSD career ender (kiss of death). This student’s suspension was kept to 3 days (for the McDonalds’ incident) and the student is now matriculated at another school. The student has learned that assaulting a school official results in no consequences any students who heard about the incidence have learned the same thing. Students and administrators are being given a repeated message by 1010: Students should not be disciplined either swiftly or at a level that is consistent with the violation. Behind this twisted message is the dictate by Dr. Sanchez to “get the discipline numbers down” so that he can get rid of the desegregation court order. In the process, Dr. Sanchez and his cronies are placing the schools, the students and their staffs in great jeopardy!

The students involved in the McDonalds’ incident breached their abeyance contracts due to absences and other on-going violations. One particular student was identified as being the “ring leader.” The student was recognized for instigating much of the disruptive behavior at PV. It was also rumored that this same student had possession of a hand gun. While following up on each of the students, it was discovered that the “ring leader,” had been expelled from TUSD but that discipline information on TUSD’s student data base (Mojave) had not properly shown the expulsion. Again, central administration was contacted by the PV administration, with NO immediate response. Obviously, the expelled student should have never been allowed to register at PV. The mistake has cost PV in obvious ways which are blatant in this account of the PV situation.

(Article continued below)

Last Thursday, a physical altercation took place outside of McDonalds, involving several students. African American and Latino students became engaged in a physical fight with racial epitaphs being thrown in each direction. At the end of the fight, African American students involved in the altercation had triumphed over Latino students who were involved, with beaten Latino students on the ground being kicked by African American students. These type of episodes do not take place without the anticipation of follow-up retaliatory action.

The following day, Friday, September 18th, the above referenced “ring leader” was seen brandishing a hand gun, across the street from PV. Police were called and the school was placed on lock-down. A weapon search took place from class to class.

Drs. Sanchez and Morado had no choice but to deal with the matter immediately. Dr. Sanchez was furious at the situation getting out of hand, while issuing knee-jerk orders to several 1010 administrators and swearing as he went from office to office. 1010 directed that all male staff from the African American Students Services Department go to Palo Verde to deal with the situation. This is dumbfounding for obvious reasons. Drs. Sanchez and Morado went to PV to meet with its administrators to help “control” the situation. Meanwhile, parents gathered around the PV fence line as did members of the media. Parents wanted to remove their child from the school until the situation was resolved. Sanchez did not want to face the parents or the media and sent his good soldier Dr. Morado out to deal with the mess. Leadership? NOT!

High school and middle school administrators continue to be told that the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program from Texas and in-house suspension programs are the be-all/end-all to TUSD’s suspension problems. Central administration complains that the money has not been released to quickly put the programs in place as they desire, once again blaming and the Special Master and plaintiffs. Those at the schools doubt that PVs discipline problems could have been dealt with by DAEP and/or in-house suspension since it would be volatile to bring two feuding sides together. TUSD central heads would better serve their students by being more inclusive in their problem solving.

TUSD as a system is breaking down at all levels, beginning with its Mojave student data system. How could an expulsion not have been recorded? How many other expulsions or suspensions have been omitted? Will their omission make TUSD appear better to those monitoring the number of suspensions and expulsions?

Dangerous discipline situations are being allowed to get to a boiling point while site administrators await 1010 up to several days for responses that often seem illogical. Dr. Sanchez’ concern over his image and his obsession in blaming the desegregation court order for everything takes priority over all else, including the safety of students and employees.

On the surface, the recent problems at PV may appear to be a specific problem to PV, however, the problems all point to central administration and its systemic unraveling.

Once Again- Gratitude

Thanks to all who have helped us spread our letters: Three Sonorans, Arizona Daily Independent, Tucson Weekly. All of our letters may be found on Three Sonorans @: http://threesonorans.com/tusd-whistleblower-archives/

8 comments on “TUSD Whistleblowers: Palo Verde High School lockdown is evidence of system unraveling
  1. Finally!

    Finally an article on Sanchez’s shortcomings.

    TUSD gets what it deserves when it reelected members of the Governing Board who put an unvetted Sanchez at the helm.

    Where’s the outrage from the community? Oh, yeah. There’s none.

    The community and Sanchez deserve one another. I just feel for the families who are really struggling to get ahead, but can’t because of the district they’re stuck with.

    • There is community outrage , TUSD is very good at covering it up, they have most of the local media in their pocket. What have you done , how outraged are you, there is a recall for these board members, have you signed it? I have called for everyone to go to the next board meeting and demand Sanchez’ resignation, will you be there, will you make this demand? I am glad that you feel for these families , now do something to help them. I have confronted Sanchez and the board majority , and will continue to do so , will you?

  2. Racial epitaph? The person who wrote this needs a grammar lesson…or a college education. Whoever wrote this is trying to take advantage of this incident by saying that it’s like this at every school and the discipline issues aren’t unique to PV. The fact of the matter is these types of incidents aren’t taking place elsewhere in the district and this just sounds like a disgruntled administrator who would rather have students kicked off campus instead of learning how to work with them.

    • Kevin you are wrong, if you read the article you would things have happened elsewhere . I have spoken to many teachers and administrator about there frustration with administration because there is no support. Many issues have taken place throughout TUSD , this one happen to get air time. When students are cutting class , involved in illegal activities , assaulting citizens and students , the last place they belong is on campus. If TUSD had any backbone they would enforce their own policies , and this behavior would exist . The board makes policy , and the superintendent enforces it , the board needs to take action against Sanchez for not enforcing policy.

    • Kevin, working in the district, I can tell you that what is described here is just the tip of the iceberg. No, make that the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Get a clue, please.

  3. Kevin and Betts- You have each lost the forest for the trees. A typo should not kill the message and a link to the Arizona Daily Independent should not detract from the letter on PV. Kevin, part of working WITH kids is teaching them about boundaries and consequences and when schools are hampered from dealing with an assault on an administrator, it is symbolic of a much bigger picture and problem. When an expelled student is not coded correctly in a system that schools depend on, it gives indication of how unreliable data is at this point. When it takes 4 days to respond to a school on an escalating situation, it is reflective of a system breaking down and one that does not give a damn about students or employees. PV has worked so hard to improve its academic standing. The administration, teachers and support staff are all working as strenuously on dealing with students who are acting out in inappropriate ways. The school wants to provide guidance and support to the students involved in these situations. The problem is that 1010 changes the rules on an on-going basis and that 1010 leaves PV hanging for days on end- which hampers any type of immediate response in situations that require prompt attention.

    Sanchez does not know the PV neighborhoods, he does not know the PV student population. But when he is in the limelight, he gives off-the-cuff comments to lay the blame anywhere but with his administration. (He actually blamed the PV neighborhoods for the situations over the last few weeks, in one of his media comments.) What is happening at PV is happening at many schools. I work at PV and meet with HS peers throughout the District. The rage should not be aimed at a typo or at the image portrayed about your backyard (Betts). It should be aimed squarely at Sanchez and his administration. I agree with the Whistleblowers. Sanchez and Morado constantly blame the desegregation court order (for everything). They want discipline numbers to go down without making the systemic changes that are needed and without supporting the schools. Morale at PV is very low. Our administration is treated with NO respect, which actually translates to showing NO respect for our kids.

    Let me point out that a student who was supposed to have shown up as “expelled” on the TUSD student data information system, did not show up as “expelled.” There is no excuse for this. This student should have never been allowed to register at PV. This student has been much of what has instigated the unrest on campus over the last 5 weeks and PV could have and would have dealt with it in a manner to prevent further problems but was stopped from taking immediate and correct disciplinary action. The real problems have been a data/information breakdown and central administration’s failure to respond quickly to the PV administration. Give the Whistleblowers some credit for their continued efforts to expose the District’s failings.

    • Dear Take A Long Hard Look at the Forest: I apologize if it seemed that my rage was focused on a NIMBY sort of issue–that was just my first swipe at the article. In fact, I fired off that response and then set to trying to find out what actually DID happen (it had nothing to do with the school after all, as I suspected).

      At the risk of trying to be light hearted and failing, Take A Long Hard Look at Google and you may find that I have certainly CERTAINLY expressed rage at many things in TUSD, most of them emanating from the superintendents’ office and from 1010. I most certainly do give the Whistleblowers a great deal of credit, and only wish that the Supe’s office would put as much time and energy into trying to improve the district as they do into trying to root out the whistleblowers.

      What most concerns me about the article, and I know I will be corrected if I am wrong, is that the district/administrative actions described herein make a mockery of the USP and the changes made to the Student Guidelines and Responsibilities. There is a procedure here, to deal with disciplinary issues such as the ones outlined here. When that procedure is abused, and then when that abuse is actually BLAMED on the USP and the Special Master, we find ourselves watching, once again, the amazing one-sided pissing contest that the Superintendent is trying to have with Dr. Hawley. The fact that this behavior is consistently and blindly backed by the Board majority demeans the district, but even more importantly, it undermines the good and hard work that teachers and staff are doing at the schools. Big losers from this kind of inane and immature behavior? The kids.

  4. Kevin: you hit the nail on the head. The author of these screeds works at 1010 and must have been rebuffed by Sanchez since everything is his fault and absent parents are victims.

    I’ve never heard one teacher say he or she quit because of Sanchez. I’ve heard many times that single mothers are destroying the school district and that the teachers are sick of the parents’ failures at parenting.

    Sanchez is a horrible superintendent with a matching Governing Board. And this mix goes well with an absent, sleeping community. Does anyone believe for a second that this goes on in Catalina Foothills?

    Does anyone here believe that a Foothills mother has gone to her child’s school with no bra on, defending her son’s violent behavior because he’s, um, well, her son? (I’ve seen this at Doolen.)

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